24 Tips From Burners on Gate Safety

cops dogs

Burners have kicked off a timely discussion at the BurnTheMan Facebook group.

Here’s the ACLU Guide to your legal rights if pulled over by a police officer who wants to search your vehicle or your person.

CptSmashy said:
cops snifferHere are some of the things I had people tell me in the staging area and in the lanes on opening night for Gate. Stops were made in and around Gerlach and on Gate Rd between the turn off the pavement and Gate. There was also a very heavy police presence between Gate and Greeters and between Greeters and the traffic split.
1. Obscured license plate because of a bike rack or other item.
2. Running light out on a truck or trailer.
3. Operating light (tail/brake/head light) burned out.

4. No seatbelt.

5. Open container.

6. A passenger hanging out of the window while vehicle in motion.

7. Improper/dangerous load (items extending to far out the rear or the sides of the vehicle)

8. Failure to signal a lane change (on fucking gate road no less).

9. Following too close.

10. Speeding/reckless operation.

11. Littering (discarded cigarette butt or something falling off vehicle)

My spiel last year to each driver after checking tickets and searches were complete was basically this:

“The police presence is excessive and aggressive this year. Do not speed. Keep your seatbelts on. Keep your head, arms, hands, feet and bodies inside the vehicle at all times. Do not open and drink from anything that looks like an alcoholic beverage until you reach camp and park your vehicle. Keep the music turned down. Do not do anything else that could attract any attention from law enforcement. Stay safe and have a great burn.”

I helped at least 15/20 people ziptie license plates to the end of a back rack and rig a headlamp or other illuminating device on them.

And yes, there were vehicles we checked that were REEKING of pot smoke. I wished them good luck and to be EXTRA careful about not doing anything that might attract attention.

Here are some additional bonus tips from Burners, who will remain anonymous:

12. Last year I saw a lot of vehicles being pulled over (right inside the gate). Many of those where singled out because of tags. Some tags were out of date but a lot were obstructed by bike racks.

13. Your license plate and tags must be completely visible and fully lit

14. Don’t cover your back lights even with a bike wheel.
15. remember:”I do not consent to a search” and “am I free to go now?”. Rinse. Repeat.
16. Zip strip your license plate directly to the back bike and clip on a portable LED light somewhere to shine down at it at night. Don’t forget to turn it on if you are entering the city in the dark!
17. speeding was another reason I watched a lot of people get pulled over too just do the speed limit inside the gates.
18. My friends were pulled over right past the gate AND had a drug dog led through their van, even after they specifically did NOT consent to a search all because their license plate light was out.
19. Saw a guy driving a truck with bicycle bars leaning outside of the bed. Got pulled over inside the gate.
20. My tags and plate were visible & up to date, I was pulled over for “no lights on my license plate”. The dog hit, the search was on, but there was nothing to find!
21. There is the actual law of the land on plates. It must be scured to the vehicle. So duct tape may not be your best bet on this one, also if you are from a state that does not require a front plate, do yourself a favor. Put one on the front!! I have been pulled over 5 times in a vehicle without a front plate. It was legal in my state but still got me stopped in others. Creative Avoidance should be added to the list of principles.
22. We were pulled over just inside the gate last year during early entry on the premise that our bikes were blocking visibility of our license plate. We politely asked if the bike rack was illegal and what we could do to make it more visible. Should we try to secure the plate to the bike itself so it’s more visible? We were told “No, that’s not secure and could be dangerous, we might ticket you for that. This is no big deal anyway and your rack is legal, we won’t ticket you….You don’t have anything in there you shouldn’t, do you?”When we calmly attempted to assert our rights by stating “I do not consent to a search,” we were condescendingly told “That’s okay, you don’t have to” as they approached the car with their dog (I saw no “signaling” from the dog, but I’m no expert), opened our (foolishly unlocked) car doors and ransacked our entire vehicle. They unpacked everything, emptying ziplock bags full of gear and carelessly throwing whatever they found. It was a huge mess. There were no illicit substances for them to discover (we don’t even drink alcohol), but it was a huge pain in the ass after 18 hours on the road and a flat tire…all we wanted was for TreadHunter.com to save us, to get to camp, hug our friends, and go to sleep.

Please be aware, your rights will NOT be respected. If you are targeted, you WILL be searched. Regardless of where your license plate is hanging. Straight from the horses mouth. There is no way around this. Be ready. Be safe.

23. make sure those vanity plate covers don’t hide anything
24. I’m a police officer and a fellow burner. I want to explain a few things about your 4th amendment rights and Supreme Court precedent.

A police service dog (which you can recognize easily because they wear working dog vests) can be run on the exterior of the vehicle without consent, as long as the traffic stop typically doesn’t exceed 20min (some exceptions apply). If the dog “indicates” as interpreted by the handler, the police are allowed to search your vehicle even without your consent. However this search of your vehicle DOES NOT extent to body. Your person can only be patted down for weapons. Any search after that must be from consent or probable cause (like the smell of weed).

Also, if the vehicle is stopped for a traffic violation, and the passengers did not commit ANY crime (seatbelt/passenger hanging out of veh/open container),etc) THE PASSENGER IS NOT REQUIRED TO give personal information to the officer.

The officer CAN require all the occupants to exit the vehicle for ANY reason during the stop. If you are asked to exit, don’t argue just do it. However, make sure you shut the door behind you. This prevents the dog from entering the vehicle. If the officer opens the door to allow the dog to search the inside they have to explain why in court.

So my fellow burner tips are: don’t bring illegal drugs and if you do definitely don’t put them in passenger compartment of the vehicle or any personal gear that could link YOU to the illegal drugs. (Trailers, common storage bins, etc. are better options). this makes it harder for the officer to link the illegal drugs found to a specific occupant and raises your legal defense in court about true possession.

The cops can say “the dog hit” when maybe the dog just saw a colorful shiny thing it wanted to sniff.  The dog’s not telling. The local judge, sheriff, and DA are not very Burner friendly. Last year sniffer dogs were brought to Burning Man from the US Border to help out the integrated Fed/Ranger teams.


Solar Freaking Roadways

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, maybe the road to Black Rock City could be paved with these…

Yes, this is a THING. I just sent them a few bucks, they’ve raised $612,000 so far of the $1 million they’re seeking on IndieGogo. What a great way to power your camp, and keep your feet safe from Playa dust. Although how well they work when covered in said dust is something that needs to be tested.

The Huffington Post brings us the whole story:

Solar-Panels-By-Scott-and-Julie-Brusaw-of-Solar-Roadways-300x224As the once far-fetched idea of “solar roadways” gains a huge convoy of supporters–from the US Department of Transportation to Google to the Times of India to evenFox News — a new video aimed at the millennial generation is set to go viral again, according to clean energy advocates.

This just might be the most inspiring, riveting and definitive roadmap for clean energy independence — Solar Freakin’ Roadways.

Many of us learned about the visionary energy inventors Julie and Scott Brusaw and their Solar Roadways in 2010, thanks to the first viral video by filmmakers Ben and Julie Evans and Mark Dixon, who broke the story on the Brusaws in their award-winning film, YERT–Your Environmental Road Trip.

“We first discovered Solar Roadways on the YERT trip in 2007 when Scott and Julie were just getting started — in fact, Scott called us the ‘guinea pigs’ for his original powerpoint presentation about it — and the idea completely blew our minds,” said Ben Evans, director of the film YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip.


According to Evans:

“What they were working to invent was so outside the box and seemingly impossible that Mark (Dixon, producer of YERT) and I thought Scott might just be some crazy dude living in the woods. Well he does live in the woods, but he’s perfectly sane, really smart, and as nice and down-to-earth as you can imagine. We uploaded the first Solar Roadways video in late-2007 which got a little traction, and then an updated video about the first major prototype in mid-2010,an adapted version of which was included in our feature-length eco-docu-comedy which came out the following year. That second video really ‘broke the story’ in a way — the idea completely captured people’s imagination and thevideo went viral on YouTube. Boom! We’d never experienced anything quite like it — Mark and I started getting emails from people literally all over the world with ideas or suggestions or requests to have Solar Roadways in their city — and of course we’d forward all of those emails to Scott and Julie, since it’s their baby. But it’s been really cool to help get this idea out into the world and to be some part of enabling the Solar Roadways phenomenon.”

Seven years after breaking the solar roadways story, the YERT team added:

“Of all the incredible environmental solutions highlighted in our feature film, it’s one of the ones that resonates the most with people. Now with their newly-installed working prototype and their Indiegogo campaign to seed the manufacturing process, Solar Roadways really has a chance to become a reality in the near future. That’s just incredible — but it can’t happen without the support of people who care. Scott and Julie are doing all they can to keep this ‘of, by, and for the people’ by crowd-funding it as much as possible, so supporting their Indiegogo campaign is crucial. I think this hilarious new video by Michael Naphan, which includes clips from the YERT film, really brings home for a new audience what Solar Roadways is and why we need it. I hope it helps the mission!”

Here is their original 2007 video:

I-80 Alert! Sinkhole in Truckee Forces Lane Closures

by Whatsblem the Pro

Expect delays on I-80 through Truckee - PHOTO: Samuel Gonzalez/KCRA

Expect delays on I-80 through Truckee – PHOTO: Samuel Gonzalez/KCRA

Caltrans reports that a sinkhole has developed in the center median on Interstate 80 in the Truckee area, near Donner Pass Road.

The sinkhole, which was first reported this morning, is said to be approximately three feet wide and has forced the closure of two lanes, affecting both eastbound and westbound traffic. Travelers should expect delays, as the number one lanes in both directions are closed until further notice.

Workers have been on the scene for much of the day, assessing the severity of the sinkhole and planning for repair work. The cause of the sinkhole is not yet known, but the problem became evident during paving undertaken by Caltrans early this morning.

Other potential hazards on the road to Burning Man include numerous large fires, nearly twenty miles of washed-out shoulder on NV-447, and a reported massive increase in law enforcement activity both on the highways and on the playa. The Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe’s reservation, for instance, includes a stretch of highway with a lower-than-usual speed limit; the tribe is said to be enforcing that limit strictly, using at least two brand-new pursuit vehicles that some speculate were purchased specifically for this year’s Burning Man season.

With heavy construction on alternate routes to the Black Rock Desert, there may simply be no getting around the various closures, hazardous road conditions, fires, speed traps, and law enforcement shakedowns. Be careful out there; make sure your vehicle is road-legal, your license is in order, and your knowledge of your rights and how to stand up for them are brushed-up. We want to see you on the playa with a smile on your face, not standing by the side of the road with all your belongings being tossed by uniformed thugs with dogs. . . or upside-down and on fire in a ditch.

Highway Update!

by Whatsblem the Pro

NV State Route 447 in June of this year -- PHOTO: Ralph Minnitte

NV State Route 447 in June of this year — PHOTO: Ralph Minnitte

A lot of burners have been worried about the condition of Nevada State Route 447 since the recent heavy rains washed out a portion of the road. NV 447 is the main route in and out of Black Rock, and any really significant construction delays could cause some serious problems for tens of thousands of people trying to get to the playa.

A recent edition of Jack Rabbit Speaks advised burners to exercise more than usual caution when driving out to the playa, stating that 447 had “taken a beating” and speculating that road repair work could possibly create a twenty-mile bottleneck of single-lane traffic. “Allow extra time for your journey,” advised the JRS.

Be just, and fear not.

I personally drove 447 just a few days ago; at this point, what remains evident of the damage is nearly all to the highway’s shoulders along the stretch where the flooding was at its worst. It’s certainly true that construction work on the highway would be liable to cause delays even more serious than the actual damage to the road, but you can put the JRS down now and take a deep breath: in a thoughtful and canny maneuver that shows how well-regarded Burning Man actually is by local State and County authorities, the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) has announced that they will cease all road work for a three-week period, to accommodate traffic going in and out of Black Rock City.

“We’re so aware of Burning Man that we don’t do any major road work during the event,” said Scott Magruder, an NDOT spokesman. Magruder added that NDOT is currently doing all they can to repair the road as well as possible before ceasing operations entirely for the duration of the festival.

“Just obey the speed limit,” Magruder advised. “You’re going to make it there. Of course, we can’t predict if there will be another severe water event.”

With 447’s shoulders in a marginal state, further flooding – which happily is not expected – could wash the damaged section out entirely. Always check the weather before you head out to any wilderness, and plan accordingly. . . even if 60,000 of your best friends will be there waiting for you.

Naturally, NDOT will have people patrolling the road to make sure everything flows smoothly. So will the Nevada Highway Patrol and various other law enforcement agencies, so make sure your vehicle is legit, and keep your big lead foot the hell out of the gas out there. I know it’s a temptation to go screaming balls-out down the road toward the best time you’ll ever have, but driving the speed limit will get you there just fine, while speeding might get you pulled over and potentially screwed right in the vacation-hole. . . or worse. Drive safely, arrive safely, and save the mayhem and madness for the playa.

Freedom’s Just Another Word for Being Really Hard to Find

by Whatsblem the Pro

No less a light than R. Buckminster Fuller once said that “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Art sometimes requires access to tools and substances that are well beyond the pale of normal day-to-day existence; procurement of this matériel can be vital. It can also be difficult, even if you live in a place where what you need is technically legal. Try sourcing a large supply of tannerite sometime, and you may get your phone tapped or your e-mail gone through even if nobody knocks on your door to see what you’re up to. Maybe all you need for your shenanigans are some industrial-strength fireworks, but you live in an area where fireworks are tightly controlled.

Fireworks - screenshot by Whatsblem the Pro

Fireworks – screenshot by Whatsblem the Pro

Silk Road has rendered the existing model obsolete. The site is an online marketplace that preserves anonymity, provides escrow service and a reputation system, and allows the sale of just about anything at all.

You can’t just point your browser at Silk Road, though. The site’s servers can’t be pinpointed, and can’t even be communicated with if you’re not set up for it. Silk Road is the major player on the Deep Web, sometimes called Darknet, or Undernet. Unless you’re already anonymized, you can’t get there from here.

Tor (aka “The Onion Router”) is the big workhorse of the Deep Web. How does Tor work? From the Wikipedia entry:

How Tor works

How Tor works

“Tor aims to conceal its users’ identities and their network activity from surveillance and traffic analysis by separating identification and routing. It is an implementation of onion routing, which encrypts and then randomly bounces communications through a network of relays run by volunteers around the globe. These onion routers employ encryption in a multi-layered manner (hence the onion metaphor) to ensure perfect forward secrecy between relays, thereby providing users with anonymity in network location. That anonymity extends to the hosting of censorship-resistant content via Tor’s anonymous hidden service feature. Furthermore, by keeping some of the entry relays (bridge relays) secret, users can evade Internet censorship that relies upon blocking public Tor relays.

Because the Internet address of the sender and the recipient are not both in cleartext at any hop along the way, anyone eavesdropping at any point along the communication channel cannot directly identify both ends. Furthermore, to the recipient it appears that the last Tor node (the exit node) is the originator of the communication rather than the sender.”

Once you’ve got Tor installed and running, you’ll have a special Tor-hardened browser open that keeps you anonymous on the Internet. . . or does it? Not entirely, as it turns out. You still have to avoid doing things that might reveal your identity, which means your Tor-enabled browser should be the only browser open, and you must resist the temptation to do everyday things like log in to Facebook, or check your e-mail. Doing so while using Tor is actually much less secure than doing it without Tor running, because hey: people are watching. Tor does not, and by design cannot, encrypt your traffic between exit nodes and target servers. In other words, you can send and receive data all you like and nobody will know where or who you are just by looking at the flow of data, but if you yourself send information that tells where and who you are, you may be exposing your most sensitive data to hackers or law enforcement. You can expose where and who you are indirectly, as well; as an example: in September 2007, Swedish security consultant Dan Egerstad reported the interception of a large number of email account usernames and passwords by running and monitoring Tor exit nodes. Once someone has information like that, finding out who you are, where you live, and all kinds of other things about you becomes trivial.

Posting photographs without taking the necessary precautions can also compromise your identity while running Tor. Digital photos normally have what’s known as EXIF data attached to them, and the EXIF may include things like the precise GPS coordinates of where you took the picture. Scrubbing or spoofing the EXIF data is easy, but it’s also essential that you don’t skip that step if you want to upload photos and remain anonymous.

You can log in to Silk Road and lots of other Deep Web sites safely because they avoid those exit nodes that make your data sniffable and therefore vulnerable; since Silk Road also wants to remain anonymized, your requests to the site and the site’s replies to you meet and negotiate with each other at some random point in the middle of the Tor-enabled network. Again: don’t open a second browser, don’t check your e-mail, don’t sign into Facebook or other sites that know your real identity, and don’t browse web sites casually. The Deep Web is for getting in, getting what you need, and getting out.

Some popular Silk Road offerings - screenshot by Whatsblem the Pro

Some popular Silk Road offerings – screenshot by Whatsblem the Pro

The best way to get to the anonymized dark side of the Internet is to boot to a CD, a USB thumb drive, or an external hard drive that contains a special Tor-enabled security-hardened operating system. This will enable you not only to completely, securely anonymize yourself, it will also give you the ability to take your show on the road and safely access the underworld from just about any computer with an Internet connection, even the ones in the library. There are several options to choose from in such an operating system; two very good choices are Tails, and Liberté Linux.

If you boot to one of these specialized operating systems, Tor will already be enabled, and you’ll be ready to go. Point the specially-modified browser at the Silk Road and you’re there (please note that if you don’t have Tor installed and running correctly, though, you’ll get “404 Not Found” or your DNS provider’s equivalent instead).

OK, so you’ve created a Silk Road account and logged into that. What now? You can feast your eyes to your heart’s content, but how do you buy anything, and what is the weird pricing system all about?

That’s the other part of the Deep Web equation: anonymized money. Silk Road’s transactions (totaling over 1.2 million US dollars per month in 2012) are conducted using Bitcoin, an electronic currency introduced in 2009 that was designed with your privacy in mind. So, before you can buy anything on Silk Road, you’ll need to acquire some bitcoins. There are several ways to do this, and more all the time; just in the last few weeks, a Bitcoin ATM was announced for use in public spaces. The most common way of obtaining bitcoins is to go through a site like Mt. Gox; this method involves a trip to a local bank to finalize the transaction, which places bitcoins in your encrypted ‘wallet’ to be spent online. As Bitcoin achieves greater recognition and acceptance, even easier methods of trading non-virtual currencies for bitcoins should quickly become trivial and routine.


Just buying bitcoins isn’t enough; you’ll also need to use a mixing service or three if you want your transactions to remain truly anonymous. You’ll need to pick your mixing services judiciously; they also operate anonymously, and a fly-by-night operation could simply disappear with your bitcoins. Do your due diligence! As a general rule, anyone you do business with anonymously should have a reputation that is worth much more to them than your transaction.

Now you can buy, but who can you trust? If everyone’s anonymous, what’s to stop vendors on Silk Road from simply keeping your money and sending you nothing at all?

Fortunately, Silk Road provides both an escrow service and a reputation system. Do your due diligence and shy away from the early funds release option, and your transaction is assured. Your bitcoins won’t be handed over to the seller until you both agree that the deal was completed fairly.

Safely communicating with vendors is also an issue. You’re going to have to give them a name and address to ship to at some point, so take steps to keep anyone in between you from sniffing that information out of the packets of data you transmit as they travel through the cloud from server to server. Make sure you use a dedicated e-mail account, and encrypt your messages in both directions with PGP or the free alternative GPG. . . or take the easy way out, and get yourself a Hushmail or Tor Mail account.

How PGP works

How PGP works

Finally, you’ve got to receive the product. It might be advisable to limit your purchases to vendors in your own country; Silk Road allows you to declare a country for your account (or not), and provides a handy “domestic only” checkbox at the top of every search page. You’ll need a name and address; PO boxes are commonly used and if you’re in America the USPS is highly recommended over other carriers like UPS or FedEx, simply because the Post Office handles such an immensely larger volume of mail and packages than the alternatives.

Volumes have been written about secure shipping, and indeed, there’s a great deal more to say about all of this. This article should be considered the tip of the iceberg; it will give you enough information to get started, but by “get started” I mean “do a lot more reading.” It’s no small or simple thing to free yourself of the burden of an obsolete old paradigm, especially when the corpse is still violently thrashing around and hurting people who try without first preparing themselves adequately. All the information and resources you need are available to you, but it’s up to you to put in the study time necessary to master the tools you’ll need.

Proceed with caution!